Arts & Entertainment
3 min

THEATRE: Reading into gay marriage

Toronto company teams up with US theatres to stage international show

Performing the Gay Marriage Plays was "too good an opportunity to say no" says director Mark McGrinder. Credit: Thinkstock
Let’s face it: despite our humourless prime minister and questionable music exports (we shall be forever apologizing for Bieber and Dion) queer folks have it pretty good here in Canada. We’re protected in our jobs, can adopt kids and can marry members of the same sex.
 
Our neighbours to the south are still fighting for the same level of equality we enjoy, and, on Nov 7, curtains in theatres all over the United States will rise in solidarity with a special performance of Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays.
 
The production is a collection of works from various playwrights, including Moisés Kaufman, Jeffrey Hatcher, Paul Rudnick and Doug Wright. Each celebrates the courage to be in a relationship – any relationship.
 
Toronto’s Studio 180 theatre company will be presenting Toronto’s reading of Standing on Ceremony, which will feature a live-stream introduction and post-show Q&A from the New York theatre where the off-Broadway production of the show is in previews. 
 
It’s a nice fit for the Toronto company as it comes to the end of its much-lauded run of The Normal Heart at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. 
 
Core artistic member Mark McGrinder is directing the staged reading.
 
“Initially, our response was that we were so busy, with our show ending the night before,” he says. “But it’s this one-off special event and just too good an opportunity to say no.”
 
It helps that the performance will be a staged reading, which means the actors will be reading their lines in a dramatized fashion. Each piece in the production is only about 10 minutes long, allowing the actors to take on a variety of roles. 
 
“It’s a real mix of plays,” McGrinder says. “One of them that is really fascinating and so current is called On Facebook.   It’s basically a transcribed Facebook discussion on the issue of gay marriage that really happened. We’ve all seen those conversation threads where one person posts something and suddenly there’s 38 comments arguing different points of view.”
 
For actor Mark Crawford, the evening provides not only a forum for discussion, but also a chance to just have fun onstage with Normal Heart cast members before they go their separate ways.
 
“We were all just talking about this the other night in the dressing room,” Crawford says. “The nice thing about doing a night like this is that you’ve built up this momentum and stamina doing eight shows a week, so it feels like all our actor toolkits are really honed right now.”
 
Crawford says Paul Rudnick’s piece, My Husband, is one of his favourites. “It’s this very funny scenario between a mother who is like the perfect PFLAG poster child and her gay son. She’s a very liberal Jewish professor at NYU, and she’s very excited that gay marriage has been passed in New York City. 
 
“She can’t wait to marry off her eligible gay son, and she’s embarrassed to tell her friends that he’s still single.”
 
Studio 180 has a solid history of activism-based theatre, with a resumé that includes productions of The Laramie Project and the Arab-Israeli Cookbook
 
“With every show we do, the notion of who we are and what we want to accomplish continues to evolve,” McGrinder says.  “It’s issue-based theatre, and what we say in our mandate is that we look to produce socially responsible theatre that provokes discussion and understanding.
 
Dancing that line between education and entertainment can be tricky, but the company’s canny choice of plays has earned them an ardent and wide-ranging fan base. It’s also educating a whole new generation about our community’s rich history. 
 
“With this production of The Normal Heart that we’re just wrapping up, we’ve been getting a lot of school kids coming, and it’s rocking their world,” says McGrinder. “It can be easy to normalize your own history and think that these things affect everyone, but these kids come in knowing nothing about the subject matter. To open that door is amazing.”

The Deets:
Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays
Mon, Nov 7, 8pm
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Tickets available at door
studio180theatre.com